World's Coolest Pools
The pool that juts out from the 36-story InterContinental Dubai Festival City is an urban oasis, but not for the faint of heart. Look down, and you’ll see through the glass bottom to the street far below.
In a city famous for pushing the boundaries of architecture, it's only fitting that pools are going to new heights. And it's not just Dubai: in cities across the globe, pools have evolved from background scene-setters to the main attraction. The 21st-century pool has blossomed to an imaginative work of art that flaunts a "wow" factor—be it a pool elevator, a whitewater slide, hidden grotto, or interactive aquarium.
Of course, a buzz-worthy pool doesn’t just happen overnight. "The interesting aspects of cool pools are in the choice and use of materials," says Cool Pools and Hot Tubs author Vinny Lee, “and its shape should complement the surroundings and landscape.”
"It's all too easy to design a pool that looks good, but to make strong and powerful connections to a place, a climate, a landscape, an atmosphere or a feeling—now that’s cool because it’s unrepeatable," says Marwan Al-Sayed, who developed the pool at the high-design Amangiri resort in the Utah desert, which is built around a natural stone outcropping, with his team, Wendell Burnette and Rick Joy.
Other pools are more of a novelty attraction. Las Vegas’s Golden Nugget Resort features a 50-by-30-foot aquarium stocked with fish and sharks in the middle of its pool; there’s even a waterslide tube that runs through it. But not all cool pools are the headline amenities of hotels. At the Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, for example, guests can swim with 18-foot-long crocodiles (in the safety of an acrylic cage, of course), and in Brussels at the world’s deepest recreational pool, it’s the caves (some as deep as 108 feet) that lure water-lovers.
Each of the world’s coolest pools certainly has its own personality, impressing thousands of visitors and serving as tourist attractions in themselves. With more tricks and rides, live creatures and local materials, and soul and character, their cool factors are sure to inspire more than just a dip—they may just inspire a whole vacation.
The Joule, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Dallas
Why It's Cool: The property is in the midst of a $78 million renovation by Adam D. Tihany, but the showpiece may well be the 10th-floor pool: glass-edged and extended eight feet over downtown Dallas. starwood.com
—Marguerite A. Suozzi
James Royal Palm, Miami
Why It's Cool: This South Beach newcomer took over the classic Royal Palm and has an adults-only pool. Ogle the beach scene below with a Frozen Floridian rum cocktail in hand. jameshotels.com
—Marguerite A. Suozzi
The Siam, Bangkok
Why It's Cool: Overlooking the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the infinity pool is the ideal place to watch the autumn Loi Krathong festival, when the water goddess is honored with floating candlelit offerings. thesiamhotel.com
—Marguerite A. Suozzi
Hôtel Le Bristol, Paris
Why It's Cool: Fronting the mansard roofs of the Champs-Élysées, the teak-and-glass-enclosed lap pool was a posh 1978 addition to the venerable hotel (and modeled after Aristotle Onassis’s yacht Christina). The property is still an A-list favorite—it even had a cameo in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. lebristolparis.com
—Marguerite A. Suozzi
InterContinental Dubai Festival City
Why It's Cool: Cantilevered over the side of the 36-story, sail-shaped building, these waters are best taken at night, when the city’s ever-expanding skyline glitters against the dark desert sky. ichotelsgroup.com
—Marguerite A. Suozzi
San Alfonso Del Mar, Algarrobo, Chile
Why It’s Cool: This Guinness World Record holder contains 66 million gallons of saltwater and covers approximately 20 acres, making it the largest pool on the planet. At 115 feet at its deepest point, the pool feels like a mini-ocean, complete with man-made beach.
Interesting Fact: Never mind swimming: kayaking is the most popular activity. Equipment rental fees apply. sanalfonso.cl
“King’s Pond,” Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Big Island, HI
Why It’s Cool: The resort’s 1.8-million-gallon rock “aquarium” pool is inspired by Hawaii’s traditional anchialine ponds, landlocked bodies of water with subterranean connections to the ocean. Natural springs and ocean water feed into this man-made version, where guests swim alongside over 75 species of tropical fish and a spotted eagle ray.
Interesting Fact: The pool is sculpted out of 200-year-old lava rock.
The Tank, Las Vegas
Why It’s Cool: This $30 million pool is the only one of its kind in the U.S.: you can swim with more than 200 different types of fish, including stingrays. Okay, not exactly swim with them. The pool surrounds a 50-by-30-foot, 200,000-gallon acrylic tank teeming with marine life, and a three-story enclosed waterslide tube shoots you through the tank in eight seconds flat.
Interesting Fact: The tank features over a dozen sharks, including blacktip, nurse, sand tiger, sandbar, and zebra sharks. goldennugget.com
Hotel Valley Ho, Scottsdale, AZ
Why It’s Cool: With its olive-and-martini-glass design and retro chaises, this quirky time warp of a pool is a nod to the swanky ’50s era, when Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, Rock Hudson, and other celebrities frequented the hotel.
Interesting Fact: Stars continue to visit the property; Katy Perry and John Legend have performed poolside.
Grand Wailea Canyon Activity Pool, Maui, HI
Why It’s Cool: This 25,700-square-foot wet playground is a destination in itself. Nine free-form pools at six levels (from 40 feet to sea level) are connected by a “river” that carries swimmers along at varying speeds, from lazy river currents to whitewater rapids. Highlights include multiple slides, a sand beach, a swim up bar, and six waterfalls.
Interesting Fact: Going up? The pool is home to the world’s first water elevator—swimmers are lifted to the surface in a sealed chamber.
Amangiri, Lake Powell, UT
Why It’s Cool: Deep in the desert canyons of Utah, this luxe resort embraces the surrounding environment with a pool that’s ingeniously built around a large, natural rock formation. Swimmers can float around the main Pavilion while gazing at undulating layers of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Interesting Fact: The pool is detailed with a “negative edge,” so that when you’re swimming all you see is water, rock, reflections, and blue sky.
W Fort Lauderdale
Why It’s Cool: Conceived by über-hip Clodagh, the pool features a stunning glass-encased centerpiece staircase. It stretches 28 feet into the middle, so swimmers can easily gawk at guests-and vice versa.
Interesting Fact: Visitors in the hotel's Living Room lounge can ogle bathing beauties through slits in the ceiling. starwoodhotels.com
Coral Gables Venetian Pool, Coral Gables, FL
Why It’s Cool: History is preserved at this 820,000-gallon man-made lagoon, carved from a coral rock quarry in 1923. The founding father of Coral Gables—George Merrick—envisioned the layout of the pool, which is surrounded by Venetian-style architecture and tropical foliage. Fed daily with springwater, it features two waterfalls, coral cave grottoes.
Interesting Fact: It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. coralgablesvenetianpool.com
Hayman Island Resort Pool Bar, Australia
Why It’s Cool: Located just off the Great Barrier Reef and roughly the size of seven Olympic-size pools, the pool at this luxury island resort is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. A saltwater main pool surrounds the central, heated freshwater pool (yes, a pool within a pool) and the Hayman Pool Bar.
Interesting Fact: The pool is so immense that the resort constructed four interconnecting boardwalk bridges (the longest being 165 feet) over the pool water’s surface.
Intercontinental Hong Kong
Why It’s Cool: Its underwater music is novel, but it’s the entire roof terrace complex that makes this pool unique. Not only does it have a beautiful teak deck with lily ponds and a poolside cafe, but there are three infinity spa pools (cool, medium, hot) with views of bustling Victoria Harbour.
Interesting Fact: Legendary tai chi master William Ng offers complimentary lessons poolside on the roof terrace for guests five mornings per week.
Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Australia
Why It’s Cool: Crocodile lovers can get personal with the massive reptiles at this educational pool in Australia. An acrylic two-person cage (a.k.a. “the cage of death”) is lowered from an overhead monorail into a saltwater pool, where swimmers come face-to-face with 18-foot-long crocs—some of the largest down under. A glass wall bisects a croc-free section of the pool for those who want to engage from a distance.
Interesting Fact: Faint of heart? The complex also has a viewing pool (adjacent to the main pool) with 100 baby crocodiles.
Royal Caribbean “Oasis of the Seas,” Eastern and Western Caribbean
Why It’s Cool: The largest cruise ship in the world (with a capacity of 6,360 guests and 2,394 staff) features the most tricked-out pool at sea. By day it serves as a swim and dive spot for scuba certification; at night, it’s the setting for aerial aquatic performances.
Interesting Fact: The pool’s retractable bottom, which includes three custom lifts, allows it to stretch as deep as 18 feet—an incredible feat of engineering at sea. oasisoftheseas.com
Nemo 33, Brussels
Why It’s Cool: At 108 feet deep, the world’s deepest recreational pool is one of the most popular diving facilities in the world, thanks to its playful and unconventional design. The pool features a cylindrical deep-dive pit, flat platforms at various depth levels (16 feet and 33 feet, respectively), and large windows for spectators.
Interesting Fact: The pool even has underwater caves for the divers. nemo33.com
Grace Hotel, New York City
Why It’s Cool: Home to some of the hottest parties and events in NYC’s Times Square, this indoor pool is conveniently connected to a 40-foot bar and comes equipped with mood lighting, stadium seating, and a projector to show movies. There’s a large coed steam and sauna near the DJ booth.
Interesting Fact: Celebrity pool sightings include Nelly Furtado, Michael Stipe, and Tyson Beckford. room-matehotels.com
Viceroy Pool at Icon Brickell, Miami
Why It’s Cool: Designed by Philippe Starck, the three pools at the swanky new Viceroy hotel are connected, making it the longest pool complex in the country. At 205 feet, the main pool is the longest in Florida, while the 80-person hot tub is the world’s largest. Quirky details include a reflection pool with submerged tables and chairs.
Interesting Fact: Designed to mirror the Miami River running through downtown Miami, the pool literally runs through the condo “metropolis” of Icon Brickell.